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Why King Charles' Type of Cancer Has Not Been Disclosed: 'In Time We Might Know,' Says Biographer

In keeping with the palace's tight-lipped approach to medical conditions, the exact diagnosis has not been specified

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty Images</p> King Charles in November 2023

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

King Charles in November 2023

Buckingham Palace’s shocking announcement that King Charles has cancer stopped short of sharing his exact diagnosis.

"In time we might know," royal biographer Robert Hardman tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue. “But for now, there is a feeling that they have been pretty open."

On Monday, the palace revealed the news in a 138-word statement that concluded, "His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer." Two days later, the royal family’s social media team posted a graphic in partnership with the U.K. charity Macmillan Cancer Support to highlight resources for cancer information and support.

Although the exact nature of the King's diagnosis was kept private, the news shared more than past health announcements related to royal family members.

King George VI’s lung cancer diagnosis was revealed only after he died in 1952, and news of Princess Margaret’s lung operation in 1985 was shared after surgery. The announcement of Queen Camilla’s 2007 hysterectomy didn’t specify the reason behind it, and the nature of the abdominal surgery Prince Philip had in 2013 has never been disclosed.

Most recently, the announcement of Kate Middleton’s “planned abdominal surgery” was publicized after the procedure had been completed, and the Kensington Palace statement didn’t include any condition details. PEOPLE understands the issue is non-cancerous, and Princess Kate was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 29 to continue her recovery at home. She's not expected to return to royal duties in public until after Easter.

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty</p> King Charles and Queen Camilla walk with Reverend Canon Dr Paul Williams on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

King Charles and Queen Camilla walk with Reverend Canon Dr Paul Williams on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

Related: King Charles Doesn't Want to Put 'Pressure' on Prince William amid Cancer Diagnosis, Says Source

One week after Princess Kate left the hospital, Buckingham Palace announced that the King, 75, was diagnosed with “a form of cancer.”

Although the statement offered few details, the palace did reveal that when King Charles underwent his recent prostate procedure, a separate issue of concern was detected and “subsequent diagnostic tests have revealed the presence of a form of cancer." (Despite his recent procedure, it is not prostate cancer, a spokesman confirmed.)

Those close to the family were taken aback by the news.

“I was really shocked when I heard it,” says a palace insider.

PEOPLE magazine, Feb. 19.
PEOPLE magazine, Feb. 19.

Related: A Complete Timeline of King Charles' Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Adds a source who knows him, “He has not looked himself. I put it down to grief — he’d had two deaths close together [his mother, Queen Elizabeth, in September 2022 and his father, Prince Philip, in April 2021] — but maybe he wasn’t well, without realizing so. It would take it out of him.”

The palace statement said that the King “remains wholly positive about his treatment” and looked forward to returning to public duty as soon as possible. Though he has been advised to postpone public-facing engagements after commencing a schedule of treatments, King Charles will continue to receive his “red boxes,” the monarch’s daily delivery of official files, and process state documents behind the scenes.

<p>Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty</p> King Charles attends Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

King Charles attends Sunday service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on February 4.

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“Yes, he’s going to step back from public duties for a considerable time, but there will be plenty of work for him — it just won’t necessarily be in a room with hundreds of people,” says Hardman. Adds the palace insider: “He will want to get on with the job.”

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